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Book Nook - 08-05-2017

Monday, May 08, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Steely Women
Danielle Steel has been a best-selling author for so long, that she could probably write a book like Dangerous Games in her sleep.

It is a page-turner with ‘hit’ stamped on it, with Hollywood actresses lining up to option it for a movie—because it is such a simple novel, written in a matter-of-fact style with no unnecessary flourishes. There is a crime and a high-powered criminal, but since it’s not a whodunit, the reader knows right away who the bad guy is and wait to see how he will be tripped up. It must be said that Steel wrote a fitting punishment for the man.

The protagonist, Alix Phillips, is a television correspondent, with a particularly fearless temperament; along with her lone ranger ex–Navy SEAL cameraman, Ben Chapman, she rushes to the world’s most dangerous trouble spots, to report on wars, riots, scandals, protests and such. She keeps the channel’s ratings high, and her boss Felix Winters reserves the choicest assignments for her, while he battles anxiety and chronic acidity.

Her daughter Faye, was raised by Alix’s mother Isabelle, and now that she has grown up, she in equal measure proud of and exasperated with her mother’s choice of career over family.  Widowed early and disowned by her husband’s snooty parents, Alix loves her mother and daughter fiercely, but her work is her greatest love.

Felix tells Alix he has heard that the Vice-President Tony Clark, who is planning to run for the top office, is on the take. His image has, however, been whitewashed by his proximity to a much-revered leader Bill Foster, who was assassinated. His wife Olympia Foster, has turned reclusive, her only mission is to keep the progressive ideas of her husband alive. Clark is her only friend, and she does not know that her lonely but peaceful life is about to be upended.

When Alix taps her sources in Washington to find out more about Tony Clark—who has a trophy wife and a luxurious lifestyle—the FBI picks up the trail, and the matter is no longer a ratings bait, but one of top security. If a politician so high up in the hierarchy chain can be suspected of corruption, how much deeper could the rot be? As can be expected, Alix comes under threat when word of her investigation reaches the antagonist.

It is an engaging read, because Alix is the kind of woman who is a role model for today’s careerwomen. However, her independence and love for her work is emphasized over and over again, as is Ben’s fierce privacy.

The relationships—whether personal or professional—are nicely depicted; the taciturn Ben turns out to be quite the hero.  There are no real surprises in the book, and the bad guys are who you’d expect them to be, but Alix has all the makings of a franchise heroine, if Steel followed current trends. Who better than an intrepid journalist to expose the world’s ills?
 
Dangerous Games
By Danielle Steel
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Pages: 306

 

Excerpt of Dangerous Games by Danielle Steele: Corruption, Power And International Intrigue...
It was nearly four in the morning when Alix Phillips ran for cover as gunshots rang out. A fruit- canning factory had been shut down in Alabama, putting thousands out of jobs. The union had been trying to stop the shutdown for months, and finally violence had broken out in the town, out of desperation and frustration. Most of the factory workers were African American, some of whose families had worked there for generations. There had been looting and destruction in the town and surrounding area all night, and two young men had been killed. The riot police had been called in from nearby cities, and the acrid smell of tear gas was everywhere. Alix was reporting from a live feed, and had to abandon the spot where she’d been standing, as Ben Chapman, her cameraman, grabbed her roughly by the arm and forced her to leave. He nearly had to drag her to get her away from the scene, as troops narrowed in on the area, and flames exploded the windows as looters set a building on fire. She had just been saying on her broadcast for na-tional TV that nothing like it had been seen since the riots in L.A. in 1992.

“Are you fucking crazy?” Chapman shouted at her, as they took refuge behind a building around the corner, and National Guards-men and riot police thundered past them. Ben and Alix were wear-ing their press badges around their necks and had been on the scene all week. Alix’s face was smudged with soot, and her eyes were watering from the tear gas heavy in the air. “Are you trying to get killed?” They had been working as a team for four years, and got along well, except in moments like this.

To her own detriment, Alix Phillips would put herself on the front line of any battle, riot, demonstration, or dangerous situation in order to bring the reality of it to their viewers. Ben loved working with her, but they’d argued about it before. Her fearlessness made for award- winning footage, and the network loved it, especially at a time in broadcasting when few reporters were willing to take the risks she did. It was in her DNA. But there were times when reason had to win out, or should have, and with Alix it never did. Once she was in the heat of a story, she was blind to all else. She’d been a TV news reporter since she graduated from college seventeen years be-fore, and at thirty- nine had made a powerful reputation for herself, reporting from every hot spot on the planet. She covered the news abroad and in the States, on special assignment, and the producers loved her because she never turned anything down, and her brilliant editorials and assessments were known around the world. She was a legendary reporter whom everyone admired, and was a household name. Working with her was a privilege Ben enjoyed, except when she went too far and put their lives on the line. He was a brave man, but not foolish. But nothing stopped Alix, she was passionate about every story.

 

ALSO RECEIVED
David Bramwell and Jo Keeling’s book The Odditorium is a funny and well-researched book about some of the world’s oddballs. Says the synopsis. “Step into a world of gloriously unpredictable characters such as Ivor Cutler, Quentin Crisp, Joe Orton, Reginald Bray, Ken Campbell, Screaming Lord Sutch, Sun Ra, Buckminster Fuller, Timothy Leary and Ayn Rand. The Odditorium is a playful re-telling of history, told not through the lens of its victors, but through the fascinating stories of a wealth of individuals who, while lesser-known, are no less remarkable.Throughout its pages you'll learn about the antics and adventures of tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors. While their stories range from heroic failures to great hoaxes, one thing unites them - they all carved their own path through life. Each protagonist exemplifies the human spirit through their dogged determination, willingness to take risks, their unflinching obsession and, often, a good dollop of eccentricity. Learn about Reginald Bray (1879-1939), a Victorian accountant who sent over 30,000 singular objects through the mail, including himself; Muriel Howorth (1886-1971), the housewife who grew giant peanuts using atomic energy; and Elaine Morgan (1920-2013), a journalist who battled a tirade of prejudice to pursue an aquatic-based theory of human evolution, which is today being championed by David Attenborough. While many of us are content to lead a conventional life, with all of its comfort and security, The Odditorium reminds us of the characters who felt compelled to carve their own path, despite risking ostracism, failure, ridicule and madness. Outsider artists, linguists, scientists, time travellers and architects all feature in The Odditorium, each of whom risked ostracism, ridicule and even madness in pursuit of carving their own esoteric path, changing the world in wonderful ways.”

The Odditorium
By David Bramwell and Jo Keeling
Publisher: Hachette
Pages 254


Lavanya Shanbhogue-Arvind’s novel is set in pre-Independence Bombay and Lahore.  According to the synopsis, “In 1920, eleven-year-old Satya, resident of the temple-town of Shanishingnapur commits the ultimate act of treachery – theft. The houses in his town have no doors or windows because they believe that the malefic planet Shani who watches over their town will punish thieves. When Satya cycles away to Bombay, the deity strikes but undeterred he strives to chase down his heaven – money, privilege and his life’s ambition of a turf club for racing horses that will avenge his ouster from a ‘Europeans Only’ club.

“Twenty years later Satya has risen in ranks as the Educational Inspector of the Bombay Presidency. In line with the vision of Thomas Macaulay, he sets the curriculum – Pythagoras instead of Panini, Galileo instead of Aryabhatta, Aesop’s Fables instead of the Jataka Tales – to create more and more Brown Sahibs to serve the British Raj.
It is in Lahore, where he is sent as an inspector of schools, that he meets Professor Ibrahim Hamid, who teaches his students the poetry of Baba Waris Shah and Kabir and represents a worldview of nationalistic movement that is working towards a free nation.

“This is also the story of Saraswathi, Satya's daughter, who much against his wishes is a singer of patriotic songs in support of the nationalist movement and falls in love with Professor Hamid while in Lahore with her father. Even as she struggles for her identity and purpose, she is chasing her own heaven – a place where she will find love, acceptance and respite from her father’s cruelty.

Set in the colonial cities of Bombay and Lahore, the Heavens We Chase is the story of a dysfunctional family whose dreams contradict each other’s while being inescapably entangled.”

The Heavens We Chase
By Lavanya Shanbhogue-Arvind
Publisher: India Ink
Pages: 252

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